Maria Bello on Research and On-Screen Nudity

Maria Bello stars in the new film, Downloading Nancy, playing a suicidal sexual abuse victim whose only source of happiness is cutting herself.


How’d you get in the mindset of someone who cuts herself and constantly contemplates suicide? And was there anything in Nancy that you also saw in yourself?

I did research on the woman it actually happened to, and unfortunately or fortunately, I had a lot of mental illness in my family growing up and was very moved to explore that in a really serious way and put it on screen — because it is a reality for people. Suicide is a reality for some people who are so isolated and so damaged and can’t see any other way out. And Nancy’s a real coward. She couldn’t do it herself. She had to hire somebody else to do it. [But] I don’t think that I could do any character [where] I don’t have something inside of me that is a similar quality. Part of me thinks when I did ‘Nancy,’ it was the end of something for me. I feel like I did it, like I can’t do better than that in terms of getting my demons out and portraying the biggest darkness that somebody can have on screen. So in a way it was really cathartic and a real relief. And I’ve found myself since then being attracted to things that are a lot more light-hearted.

As far as something you probably don’t want your son to see just yet, you’re very brave about doing on-screen nudity. Are you ever apprehensive about stripping down for a role?

I don’t have any issue with it at all if I think it’s important in terms of the story and if it shows a real vulnerability, and it’s there for a reason. It’s not like I’ve ever done a love scene naked that’s just like: Oh my God, you know these two people just love each other so much they want to f*** [laughs]. You know, they want to make love. I’ve never done a love scene like that. They’ve always been, I think, more complicated than that. The nudity in ‘Downloading Nancy,’ which actually wasn’t very much considering what kind of movie it was, was a real necessity. You know, in terms of who this woman is and who this man is and what their relationship is and the vulnerability of that, and how she was probably never naked like that with anyone, soul-wise or body-wise. You know, it was always about something else. And that’s it; it’s not a big issue for me. Maybe as my ass gets bigger and less tight it will be [laughs].

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